Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Carl Sandburg, Redux, Or, Happy Poetry Month!

While I was visiting at Sir Robin's place, he reminded us all that this is National Poetry Month. I knew this. I just didn't actually acknowledge it, not even when I was teaching poetry, not even when I invited a poet to visit my classroom next week. Talk about being too close to the trees to see the forest...

This made me think about The Official Poet of Bitty's Back Porch, Carl Sandburg. It's not every blog that has an Official Poet, I don't suppose, but this one does. Because I am One Busy Person, I'm going to honor NPM for now by rerunning a Sandburg post. I've never rerun anything before, but Law & Order does it to great effect, so why not me, too? Here goes, from March 31, 2006:

Some weeks back, I waxed, um, poetic about Carl Sandburg, favorite son of our mutual natal state, Illinois. At the time, I bemoaned the cost of the used Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg as out of my reach.


I found a less expensive copy.

Over the past five years -- and only AFTER finishing my formal education, I might add -- I've come to appreciate poetry. For years it intimidated me, but once I realized the obvious, that it is ok not to like or understand it all, just as it is ok not to like or understand all prose, poetry and I became good friends.

Poetry must be read slowly, carefully. If not, one might as well be reading the back of a Tylenol bottle.

And so, a week or so ago, slowly grazing in my new/old Sandburg book, I confirmed two things:

(1) Lefties, Carl is for sure one of us.
(2) I can get overstimulated quickly by poetry. Reading too much Sandburg produces the same dazed mental state in me as eating too much canned icing.

I offer two Sandburg poems today because one just isn't enough. The first is a prose poem that shows us two things: although he worked mostly in traditional forms, Sandburg wasn't a slave to tradition. Secondly, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

From Good Morning, America (originally copyrighted in 1928):


When the charge of election bribery was brought against an Illinois senator, he replied, "I read the Bible and believe it from cover to cover."

When his accusers specified five hundred dollars of corruption money was paid in a St. Louis hotel bathroom, his friends answered, "He is faithful to his wife and always kind to his children."

When he was ousted from the national senate and the doors of his bank were closed by government receivers and a grand jury indicted him, he took the vows of an old established church.

When a jury acquitted him of guilt as a bank wrecker, following the testimony of prominent citizens that he was an honest man, he issued a statement to the public for the newspapers, proclaiming he knew beforehand no jury would darken the future of an honest man with an unjust verdict.

The second poem, also from Good Morning, America, I'm rather certain I've read before, long ago:

Money, Politics, Love and Glory

Who put up that cage?
Who hung it up with bars, doors?
Why do those on the inside want to get out?
Why do those outside want to get in?
What is this crying inside and out all the time?
What is this endless, useless beating of baffled wings at these bars, doors, this cage?


Brave Sir Robin said...

I wish my blog had an official poet!!
LOVE Sandburg!!

Bitty said...

Your blog can have an official poet. It's easy. Choose one!

If Sandburg didn't already have the job, I might choose Billy Collins. I had the chance to hear him a few weeks ago, but didn't have the time.

Something is wrong with my priorities.

AMorris said...

I just read Chicago the other night, after owning the book for 14 years, and understood it. Cool post.